Jackass endured because it aimed at something higher than the vicarious thrills of watching someone else’s testes, noggin or anus get scuffed, bruised or bloodied. The films especially pushed the outlandish stunts and good taste into convulsively hilarious explorations and exploitations of social altruism and, as they grew famous, its stars’ own psychological fears.
Led by Johnny Knoxville, the Jackass gang kicked notions of controlled fear in the baby-maker and left it hanging off a cliff by one finger (usually the middle one). The spinoff follow-up of Bad Grandpa was a one-joke endeavor … but at least the joke was funny. On paper, throwing Knoxville and company into a theme park where an absence of safety standards becomes a sales pitch feels perfect —increasingly elaborate Rube Goldberg devices that end in contusions or concussions with commentary on a society so quick to litigate that the gesture is largely limp.
There’s a great Jackass movie in there. Pity, then, that they crapped out fictionalized pond scum like Action Point — which now rivals Strange Wilderness as a benchmark for bad comedy that a studio swallowed based on name recognition alone … and pass through its colon with substantial anal tearing.
That both films happened to Paramount, the former from Adam Sandler, suggests a pattern, and perhaps they need to see a proctologist. The Cloverfield Paradox is still bad, but perhaps this should have been the film Paramount cut its losses on by selling to Netflix. You will pray for a “back” button on your armrest or, at least, the sweet release of death. Neither will come, child. Neither will come.
Knoxville isn’t the only famous name behind Action Point. At some point, Mike Judge had something to do with this … well, “script” isn’t the right word for something on which you wipe your ass, is it?, So did some of Judge’s better writers on Silicon Valley. It plays like a feature-length version of Ow, My Balls!, a fictitious show from Judge’s peerless satire Idiocracy. People, if the world has caused Judge to give up at whatever this is … we are well and truly doomed.
I spent only 85 minutes watching this thing that is neither a Jackass movie nor, really, anything. But a small part of my soul will forever linger in that auditorium like a specter wronged. I’ve spent equal amounts of time watching depressing state fair concerts at which some classic-rock band wheels out a couple of wheezing original members and calls it a night. Action Point feels like that, as only Knoxville and Chris Pontius return from the main stable, now surrounded by bit players from TV shows like Son of Zorn and Vice Principals — filmed in stunts from afar to seem … I don’t know, real, but mainly to hide shame at signing up for this.
Action Point intends to spin back up the genially sloppy snobs-versus-slobs yuks from the heyday of Caddyshack or Meatballs, with Knoxville’s D.C. employing wacky measures to save his backwater theme park from greedy land developers in the 1970s. Said plan: Cater to kids doing “dumb, crazy shit they might regret.” The result is somewhere below Caddyshack II and Meatballs IV. Yes, there was a fourth Meatballs. It starred Corey Feldman. Not even his lack of dignity brought him to the low of Action Point.
OK. Nice or nothing at all, right? There is approximately one laugh, from an alcoholic bear tipping back a can of Schlitz in its snout. This happens in the first two minutes. Knoxville knows it’s funny, too, because he repeats the gag at least 75,283 times. Other punchlines seem out of order somehow. They’re not. These people have just misplaced all semblance of comic timing.
Said bear is among the animals that D.C. and his crew of workers called the Shitbirds — to whom he is a feckless Fagin — capture to create an on-grounds zoo. Knoxville, Judge and company similarly cage us in shabby, inhumane conditions as Action Point absurdly tries to pivot into a Real Movie® about D.C. parenting his pubescent daughter. Together, they learn to love the Clash. Great. I hope its surviving members enjoy the royalties.
It is never more obvious than in the moments that Knoxville is asked to emote how much age has caught up with him. Now pushing 50, his face is sunken in crags so deep that Frankenstein bolts affixed to his temples would not seem out of place. The makeup used on him is like that of a junior-high play to make someone look ghostly. I’ve worn that makeup. I know it well. Like the audience, Knoxville often stands around waiting for something funny to happen.
By the way, did you know that dogs stick together at the ass after humping? Action Point does.
At some point, the movie decides to end and does so with a scene of destruction intended to rival the real-life Disco Demolition Night. Action Point is its own spectacularly bad idea that deserves the infamy. No documentaries should be made about this, though. Please.
Oh, one more thing: Knoxville resurrects the old-man makeup for a Princess Bride-like framing device in which he regales his granddaughter with this tale. In the film’s final scene, he leaves the house, stumbles and collapses on the grass — seemingly dead. It is, of course, all a ruse.
“Bet you thought the old man had bit it,” he cackles. Boy, did he ever.